Advent is a season of hopeful expectation. Nowhere is that more clearly illustrated for us than in the Gospel stories of mother-to-be Mary as she surrenders herself to God and then patiently waits for the Divine plan and purpose for her life to develop and emerge within her. I’m guessing from my own childbearing experiences that it wasn’t always easy or comfortable. For Mary, saying yes to the Spirit was risk. It was a guarantee that her life would change and that some of that change would bring pain. But, say yes to God also meant that she would be an integral part of one of the most amazing stories in all of human history.
Being a Benedictine Sojourner during this season comes with its own kind of hopefulness and expectation. As you read this, I will have just completed my first three months of the Sojourner experience. Based on my arrangement with the Sisters, mid-December could have been the end of my time, but we have agreed that I will continue on and complete the full term of six months. I’m staying because I am finding the experience meaningful, and because my heart tells me that whatever God has planned in this place and at this time, it has not finished developing.
These past weeks have been so full of changes and adapting to new relationships and routines, that in many ways it feels like I’m just now starting to catch on to the rhythms of monastic life. I’m finally starting to settle in, feeling less like a guest and more like a part of the community. And these are still just the early stages of the formative process that prepares individuals for monastic living. Becoming fully prepared to live and thrive in Benedictine community takes time, prayer, patience, guidance and discernment. It also requires individuals to be aware and to let go of old habits, preferences, diversions and distractions in order to really listen for God. Monastics must embrace humility and simplicity, and they must want to practice self-discipline.
As I begin Day Two of Week 13, I can’t say for certain what is in store for me in the next trimester of Sojourning, but I do know that changes are occurring, and new facets of understanding and capability are taking shape within me and around me. The daily routine of centering prayer and liturgy of the hours has brought me a sense of groundedness and a quiet assurance that I am growing closer to God each day. Being in community has given me a growing awareness of the relationship between independence and isolation. Voluntarily living on a fraction of the budget I once allotted for my personal expenses is helping me separate my wants from my needs. And each day I am invited to consider that freedom may be less about having what I desire than it is about desiring only what God has provided.
This isn’t always easy or comfortable. Saying yes to God’s Spirit means risking the status quo and painful grieving for a way of life that is being shed and left behind. But, I think that is also where hope and expectation are most essential and visible. My faith tells me that by participating in the transitions and transformations of the Sojourner experience, something new and wonderful has a chance to be born.
Advent and Christmas blessings to all, and a very happy New Year!